The toughest part of being a parent isn't the sleepless nights, the never-ending expenses, the time constraints, the fact that your childless friends never get it, or the fact that you never get any. All of that is more or less tolerable. You get used to it. Besides, there’s always an activity you can sign up for like luge for preschoolers or mommy-and-me fire breathing lessons, where a group of parents will inevitably form an impromptu support group to help you bear those crosses with cocktails, if not grace.
The toughest part, the part that will deep-fry your Twinkie, is the paperwork.
Let Me Explain
It's mid-June. By suburbia standards, I’m behind the eight ball when it comes to summer camp sign-ups. In general, I like my 10- and 6-year-old to run free like wild horses. Lots of good turnout keeps them mellow and happy, but Momma needs some sanity -- not to mention time to generate an income stream to support their bucolic existence -- so we do local half-day recreation camp.
This should be an easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy proposition—a form, a check, shaken until ice cold, and served with thin slice of lemon. Note I said SHOULD BE, not was. Because it wasn't. It took me two days, 55 phone calls, two trips to the doctor, a half a bottle of vodka, and it’s not over yet.
First, the camp application—yes, application-- was longer than all of my college applications combined. Granted, I only applied to schools that didn't require an essay or mission statement, but I digress. I dutifully filled out page after page refraining from a rant about why they needed me to write my phone number 900 times like it’s a password and if I don’t write it the same way, the fraud police will show up and lock me out.
Next, I ran to the doctor for copies of my children's vaccination records. This one I get, public health and all that. I was tempted to check the religious exemption box, but then I noticed it said: proof of religion required. We're Catholic so the only vaccination we oppose is one that prevents you from putting money into the collection basket. Plus, the proof has to come from a doctor. I'm not sure how a doctor attests to one’s religious beliefs, but again I digress. (Keep an eye out for a Dr. Oz: Cult Leader and Spawn of Oprah post in the future.)
And then came the kicker: a form to be filled out and signed by a physician stating that each child has recently been examined and is certified to have no allergies, asthma, a third eye, no more than 11 fingers or toes, or a forked tongue, and is therefore permitted to participate in outdoor activities.
Not to pull rank, but I am their mother. Isn’t it my job to know these things? Better than anyone? Including the doctor I interviewed and hired—and could fire-- to look after the health of said children who incidentally once LIVED inside my body for almost an entire year? Shouldn’t I grant permission?
I have a child with a summer birthday who has not had a wellness check in almost a year because... HELLO... she's well. And they can't use her last check-up because the pediatrician who performed the exam died.
No Joke. He actually died. He was lovely man and a testament to his profession. God rest his soul.
Anyway he’s dead, and it's illegal for the new pediatrician to sign off on my child’s health based on the dead pediatrician's chart. He would need to do that himself. Yes, someone actually said this to me.
“So,” you say, sounding annoyingly like my husband, "Just get her wellness check done early so you have legit paperwork.”
Because, Smartycat, insurance won't cover a wellness visit until AFTER her 11th birthday. Apparently, years ago parents went willy-nilly with wellness checks and cost the medical establishment a fortune. Those careless bastards ruined it for the rest of us.
The Deep Fry
So I have to pay a doctor or resurrect one—Hey! Would that qualify as proof of religion?—to certify that my child is permitted to play outside for a couple of hours, but I can sit that same child in front of a screen with a steady supply of deep-fried Twinkies and Fanta for 23 hours out of the day without anyone’s permission for free? Really? And we wonder why childhood obesity is skyrocketing in this country.
The Final Solution
When I went back to the camp director and read her this post, she graciously suggested the new doctor and I write and attach to the application separate, but equal letters attesting to following:
I am now kneeling in the Catholic cemetery in East Hanover…working on the letter. What? It’s quiet here.
**Note: My daughter’s birthday and subsequent wellness exam will occur AFTER CAMP ENDS FOR THE SEASON!!
Christen Fisher was a teenage beauty queen who ran away to college with only a sash across her chest and a tiara on her head. After four years, she traded in her small-town spoils for a B.A. in English and a ring from a big city guy who loved her more for what lay under her tiara than her sash.